Keep the home fire burning 🔥 South Africa. Don’t freeze back ❄️

TLDR; I wank off about history (a passion of mine) and then list a couple cool things going on right now.


Its been a crazy couple months for South Africans. Beyond navigating the devastation being wrought by the pandemic, our country was further rocked by a wave of violent crime being committed en masse with shops being looted and xenophobic violence tearing through communities. Its been tragedy upon tragedy and there is a lot of negative energy pulsing through the neural network. People are scared, and gatvol. I hear loads of pessimism about the future of this country and the all too familiar talk of emigration from those privileged enough to have that option. And I get it. If I had kids I might be in that boat too. The future here certainly is uncertain. But I feel it kinda always has been. Its one of the things you need to accept about living here. In Africa. Its never going to be all peace and quiet and rolling lawns, despite what the Bishopscourt bubble may believe.

South Africa is a place of change and turmoil. Cape Town, where I now live, especially seems to have a very pervasive “air” energy. Ever-changing and hard to pin down or even sometimes make sense of. I think it has to do with it being a port. People come and go. The energy is somehow transitory. And the Cape has been a cultural melting pot since long before white people started arriving in ships and on planes. Khoe and San co-existed in this area for a very long time before even the slow trickle of Nguni tribes started changing the demographic of the area now known as South Africa. The mass and concentrated movement of people from central to southern Africa known as the “mfecane” is just another piece of propaganda/creative accounting to defend white rights to land. (Ref: “The Lie of 1652”, Patric Tariq Mellet – read this book if you’re interested in another narrative)

“The Lie of 1652. A decolonised history of land” -Patric Tariq Mellet

The myth of the “empty land” is also total shite. The story goes that when the Dutch profiteer Jan van Riebeeck arrived here, the Cape was all but empty, except for a few scattered huts and nomadic herdsmen. So he went ahead and settled on the peninsula, establishing a proto-port and the Dutch presence here. This process involved far more armed conflict and underhanded dealings than the conventional history tells and was an attempt by van Riebeeck to salvage a career already stained by some dodgy dealings in the Far East. Anyway, so Portuguese traders had been stopping off here for centuries before the Dutch arrived and the area was known to be well populated by various indigenous tribes organised in a highly functional economic and societal ecosystem. We were taught something very different when I was at school. And not surprisingly. History is written by the “winners”, media spin designed to support the status quo.

“History Lesson” -Vinnie Paz (the video features 2 separate tracks so its quite long – listen to the first part if nothing else, its dope). Caveat: some shit I found enlightening and interesting, other things are just his opinion – his right as the artist of this performance piece.

You can’t be neutral on a moving train
I told y’all before
You can’t believe everything that your teacher tell you
Who is your teacher?
Your teacher just learned what they was taught
How do you know what they was taught was correct?
Know what I mean?
Dig into the real history of this country
And the fact it was built on blood

Vinnie Paz is talking about the US but he might as well be talking about SA.

History is propaganda. The media is just hype, don’t believe it (yeah more hip hop). It is opinionated, it has an agenda and “the news” is not the truth. Not only do broadsheets tailor their message to support the views of whoever owns the paper or whatever narrative it is in their best interests to sell, but sowing fear and anxiety ultimately serves the media in general. It sells papers. It baits clicks. It generates income. It perpetuates the status quo and it pisses me off. I made a conscious choice to disengage with mass media a couple years ago and I am much happier.

This pandemic is proof of how subjective media coverage is. Everywhere is conflicting opinion. There are no truths, only filter bubbles. Believe what you want. Read, research, make your own opinion. That is your right and responsibility as a human being. I think the best thing anyone can do is see the news as entertainment or some form of sick reality TV. With ridiculous characters and plots not even a team of stoned or coked up TV writers could dream up. Donald Trump, case in point.

OK, rant over (kinda). What I actually wanted to do was take a snapshot of my country, without the usual media spin.

Sport

Our sportsmen and women are repping hard despite the chaos. I was watching the rugby test series between the Springboks and the touring Lions and was struck by the clinical way the South Africans picked apart the over confident Lions team in the second match. Much like we destroyed England in the Rugby World Cup final. Methodical. Intelligent. We are the Rugby World Cup champions, have the best coach and are by definition the best rugby team in the world. And until the next World Cup we get to savour that accolade. Let’s enjoy it. We won the series too by the way. The Lions didn’t stand a chance.

Great analysis of the test series (by a Brit). Love this guy, his insightful and entertaining analysis of the game has made me enjoy watching rugby more.

I’ve also loved watching the Olympics. Its such a celebration of the human spirit, of perseverance and of pushing yourself to improve and realise your dreams. There are beautifully human stories playing out every day during the Games (and also in the Olympic village every night 😉). The South African team had loads of representation and even won a couple medals. We had runners in the sprints and a couple in the longer distances too. Our hockey teams represented well and won games. We competed in several of the water sports, including water polo.

Then there’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, the new darling of SA swimming. Following in the footsteps of other South African olympians like Ryk Neethling and Chad le Clos, she won the hearts of swimming fans the world over. Not only did she win the Olympic gold in the women’s 200m breaststroke but she also became the fastest woman in the world to swim that distance. Ever. Let that sink in. Oh, and she’s from my hometown, Pretoria. I say zop. Her reaction and message to South Africans in the post-race interview was beautiful.

Tatjana Schoenmaker’s reaction when she realised she set a new world record at the Tokyo Olympics. (Getty)

Some other crazy shit happened

In July, a massive, concerted attack on our economy was launched in the form of mass rioting, looting and violence. This was orchestrated by ex military operatives and criminals including several in the political sphere (read more about it here). The whole thing kicked off when our scumbag ex president Jacob Zuma was officially convicted and imprisoned for his crimes, in itself a massive win for justice in this country.

As the riots erupted – in several places at once – it became clear the police had no way of dealing with the situation. Cops were under-equipped, untrained and even started running out of riot suppression collateral like rubber bullets (and real ones). The looters were going ape shit and every crim on the block was out stealing. It was a free for all. Did everyone else hide in their homes and just accept this situation? Nope. Some people took a stand. South Africans (of all colours) armed themselves and stood together to fight back against a wave of criminals looting and pillaging, taking matters into their own hands in a unified cry of “enough is enough.”

Looters met by anti-riot groups in KZN. Photo: Twitter

South African taxi drivers also took a stand. Yes, our favourite hard working people to hate. They blockaded city centres and helped clean up the streets the looters had moved through afterwards. I think that’s pretty rad.

Durban taxi rank drivers and community members clean the streets in Durban central.

The violence was eventually contained but I would say this operation was nothing short of a military coup. And it failed. The economy took a serious knock and more hard working South Africans’ right to self determination was taken from them. But the insurgents failed. And the riots were squashed. The whole thing has left mass devastation but it could’ve been worse.

COVID vaccinations

In other news, our COVID vaccination program is in full flight and just about everyone I care about has had their first jab. Based on the media hype around how badly this thing was being handled I expected the rollout to take years. There were stories of shipments of vaccines going missing and disorganisation and chaos everywhere. In stark contrast to this media hype, everyone who has gone for their jab has commented on how well and professionally it has been run. So ja, what was the issue again?

Cape Town’s CTICC. Fifty vaccination stations are operational at the site, with the related administrative and support staff in place to support operations. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency

Space cowboys

In the tech sphere, another Pretoria kid done good, Elon Musk, is now taking trips into space with fellow oligarchs like Jeff Bizos. Whatever, not super interested in how we’re travelling into space when we can’t get our shit together on the planet we live on, but it is still impressive. Maybe we do end up colonising space. Most humans will never all be able to leave the planet though. Just like most South Africans are also stuck here, with no option to “go look for greener pastures”.

TIA

Africa can be a tough place to live. But surviving here builds character, mettle, something my trainer Adriaan calls grit. You gotta have balls to live here. No shit. But this place offers freedoms that Europeans and other first world people can only dream of and this freedom is such a big part of living here for me. I could move to Europe, I have the passport, but home is where the heart is, and mine is still here. With my family and friends. It is not rooted in the land, but in the blood, the shared experience.

I’m calling on any South African who managed to get this far down the page, not to diss this country. Diss the government. They have fucked up on a royal scale. Diss the criminals, they hold us at gun point, quite literally. But don’t give up on South Africa. South Africa is not its government, South Africa is not its crime statistics. South Africa is its people. And South Africans are some of the most talented, tough and resilient motherfuckers you’ll meet.

I just realised its quite fitting that I publish this post on August 9th, Womens Day in South Africa. A day to celebrate the role of SA’s mothers, sisters and daughters in our lives and to commemorate their contribution to passive resistance and the fight for equality.

On 9 August 1956, 20,000 women staged a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act Image: SA History Online

The chant of the 1956 Womens March:

Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo!

You strike a woman, you strike a rock!

Read more here: https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/1956-womens-march-pretoria-9-august

Peace. Aluta continua.

Timebomb

Post from January 2018:

If you wanna make a move then you better come in
It’s just the ability to reason that wears so thin
Living and dying and the stories that are true
Secret to a good life is knowing when you’re through

Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb
Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadilla
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb

Well, he’s back in the hole where they got him living like a rat
But he’s smarter than that nine lives like a cat
15 years old take him to the youth authority home
First thing you learn is that you got to make it in this world alone

Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb
Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb

Now he’s gotten out
He’s gotten free
He got a coat
Got a car
He’s 21 years old
He’s runnin’ numbers from the bar
His pager’s beepin’
He’s getting deep in
Whatever he can move on in you know that kid’s a creepin’

Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb
Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
The boy’s a time bomb
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb

Solo

Tears come from the razor
That’s been tattooed below his eye
His mother cries
She knows that he is strong enough to die
He’s rollin’ in the Cadillac
It’s midnight
Sunroof is down
Three shots rung out
The hero’s dead
The new king is crowned

Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb
Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb

Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb
Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb

Time bomb!

Connection.

Post from November 2019:

Had a cool thought. Connections are threads of energy that bind us. Energy can never be created or destroyed. Hence neither can a connection you have with someone. As thin as this connection may become, due to the ebb and flow of the universal sea of possibilities in which we dwell, it is a bond that will never break. Sharing data via these connections is superfast, instant, we just don’t always realise we’re broadcasting. Its each of our reponsibilities to broadcast love. We owe it to each other.

Everyone was speaking Japanese

I’ve always been fascinated with Japan. The culture, the scene, the art, the social dynamics. Its seems to me all at once plastic pop and raucous rock and roll, overly expressive steampunk techno heaven and every Japanese person’s silent, repressive hell. How much of this is assumption and fantasy, how much the PR facet and how much is just plain wrong, I don’t know.

I have just finished Pico Iyer’s Beginner’s Guide to Japan and have firm plans to explore this amazing country as the next leg of my world tour.

But I have a question…

What is up with your web design, Japan?

Super dense layouts, countless CTA’s and high cognitive load. I’m talking everyday websites, not designer portfolios or agency showreels – those tend towards the simpler, distilled UX of a more “Western” aesthetic.

I have to assume that Japanese web users are able to process much more information based on your website design trends. I found myself wondering whether Japanese websites mirror the daily reality of living in one of the Japanese mega cities where the visual landscape is a cacophony of colour, information and LED.

Then I began to wonder whether it is how your typography, your language and letterforms scale up that enable you to decode visual complexity so easily.

Or is it just that Japanese websites have always looked this way and your users are averse to change? This explanation would surprise me.

The site that sparked my curiosity again was the Japanese Designer Association website below:

Japen Designers Association

I would assume this website would reflect the latest in Japanese design as well as being a portal to important local design resources. The design is simpler than most Japanese websites but does it strike me as thoughtful, considered and creative? Hmm, not really. Sorry. To me it looks like a website from the 90’s. Legit. And the overall spacing, padding (and lack thereof) bothers my Western design sensibilities. But that’s a good thing. Making my mind itchier than a meth head scratching their brain demons. I’m posting this to a Japanese group I’ve recently joined on Facebook, hoping for some feedback, local or otherwise.

In the meantime I’m gonna read up on this perplexing Japanese web aesthetic. I’ll be back.

arnie

Update:

Okay, so I got some answers here https://medium.com/@maxwellforrest/the-overwhelming-world-of-japanese-web-design-2d41ad447297.

According to the article above, Japanese websites try to create a bustling, busy shop-like experience. Hmm, ok. The author also states that UX/UI design is apparently only now becoming a thing in Japan. I find that hard to believe.

With some more digging, I found this guide to Japanese web design (directed towards web professionals like myself) https://www.humblebunny.com/japanese-web-design-trends-in-japan/ and this quote immediately stood out:

“Rather than imagining it as some kind of objective measurement of quality (that transcends culture and location), remember that UX is always intrinsically connected to the preferences and needs of individuals.”

– Humble Bunny “Japanese Web Design – Intriguing Trends and How to Cater to Users in Japan”

This is so true. It speaks to the universal need to adapt the visual aesthetic to best serve the end user of the UI.

Apparently, Japanese web users expect a lot of information from the get-go. According to studies, users from Japan are some of the most risk averse in the world and need lots of data presented to them quickly to engender trust – a website with little information is seen as untrustworthy. Japanese culture also highly values the effective use of space and a sparse, spaced out webpage design is seen as wasteful. Text is often laid out in both dimensions and margins, padding and gutter space is minimised (makes me wonder how dense VR spaces must be in Japan) – Japanese users generally have no problem with this high cognitive load.

Obviously, there is more than one way to skin a page in Japan. Below are some examples of website design trends. All creds to Humble Bunny for this great breakdown – I’ve copy pasted directly from their article in the interests of knowledge sharing:

Popular Japanese Web Design Styles and Trends

Japanese website designs are fascinating and beautiful. Even with some of the design restrictions and limitations we’ve outlined already, the digital landscape here offers endless sources of inspiration that showcase intelligent uses of space, color, graphics, and technology. Below are some of the most important design trends to consider when building your website for Japan.

Offbeat and Unusual

Example of Japanese web design by Alishia

Alishia

Deliberate rejection of commonplace conventions is a popular design trend for Japanese websites. Rather than showcasing extreme chaos and randomness, the aim to use shape, color, photography and layout to create a unique and distinctive design that stands out.

Vibrant Color Palettes

Example of Japanese web design by Art Technologies

Art Technologies

The Japanese love a wide range of colors and include a diverse palette when designing websites. Neon, natural, muted, pastel or bold are all accepted, and regularly combined within a single page to create interesting creative concoctions. This kind of vibrancy is something the best Japanese web designs showcase.

Cuteness

Example of Japanese web design by Surugadai Kindergarten

Surugadai Kindergarten

The Japanese culture of cuteness, or “kawaii”, is used all over Japan and across thousands of websites. After spending some time here, you’ll likely develop your own sense of what passes as cute in Japan, but many will find it hard to explain what defines Japanese kawaii to others. Nevertheless, this kind of huggable playfulness is something that thousands of websites use to their advantage today.

Custom Typography

Example of Japanese web design by Ko Minkan

Ko-Minkan

As a branding and marketing tool, custom fonts are a powerful way to convey your brand’s personality. In recent years, there has been a growing trend for many Japanese companies to design (or commission) a custom font.

Mixing Languages

Example of Japanese web design by pop up society

Pop Up Society

As well as the multiple scripts we’ve already mentioned, the Japanese like to throw in a bit of English every now and then. Graphic designers and web developers are not afraid to mix and match these characters to create interesting visual effects or to add emphasis to particular areas.

Calligraphy & Brush Strokes

Example of Japanese web design by Suzunoya

Suzunoya

Calligraphy is regularly employed in Japanese web design. As a powerful form of art and method of communicating character, emotion, and personality, many web designers endeavour to employ calligraphy, vertical lines, and expressive brush strokes into the digital spaces they create, to offer a sense of tradition and expression.

Manga

Example of Japanese web design by Suzunoya

Umekoji Potel

The Japanese people’s wide acceptance of cartoon characters in both animated and static form is something that the marketing world regularly takes advantage of. This is no different for Japanese web designs, which leverage the appeal of comic book style graphics and characters to get their message across to users.

The Virtual Shopping Mall Experience

Example of Japanese web design by Rakuten

Rakuten

Online ecommerce platforms like Rakuten offer Japanese customers a kind of virtual shopping mall experience that caters to the needs and preferences of Japanese consumers. More information, product details, promotional content, and general opportunities for branding let merchants fine tune their online hubs for better conversions, while giving shoppers an immersive experience similar to walking around an actual shopping mall.

Word of the day: parvenu

parvenu. (n)
a person of humble origin who has gained wealth, influence, or celebrity.
“the political inexperience of a parvenu”
synonyms: upstart, social climber, arriviste, vulgarian…

A parvenu is a person who is a relative newcomer to a socioeconomic class. The word is borrowed from the French language; it is the past participle of the verb parvenir (to reach, to arrive, to manage to do something). -Wikipedia (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Parvenu)

Origin

The word parvenu typically describes a person who recently ascended the social ladder, especially a nouveau riche or “new money” individual. The famous Margaret Brown, who survived the Titanic sinking in 1912, was portrayed as a “new money” individual in the “climbing social classes” musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown because of her impoverished Irish immigrant roots and lack of social pedigree.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a parvenu as: “A person from a humble background who has rapidly gained wealth or an influential social position; a nouveau riche; an upstart, a social climber. Also in extended use. Generally used with the implication that the person concerned is unsuited to the new social position, esp. through lacking the necessary manners or accomplishments.”

The term designates individuals not socially accepted by individuals already established in their new class. It expresses a form of classism.

Social climber

A social climber is a derogatory term that denotes someone who seeks social prominence through aggressive, fawning, or obsequious behavior.[1] The term is sometimes used as synonymous with parvenu, and may be used as an insult, suggesting a poor work ethic or disloyalty to roots.

Examples

Several examples might include athletic and entertainment professionals born and raised in poverty and suddenly finding themselves with significantly higher income due to their new-found celebrity status.

Established royal families of Europe regarded the Bonaparte family as parvenu royalty. Napoleon III tried to marry into Swedish and German royalty, but was unsuccessful because he was a parvenu. For instance, his plan to marry Anna Pavlovna, one of the sisters of the Emperor Alexander, did not push through because the Empress Mother objected to the union on account of Napoleon’s status as a parvenu.[2] The reason given for the misalliance was difference of religion.[2] This was also said to be the case with the marriage of Egyptian Princess Fawzia to the future Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi[citation needed]. One of the reasons speculated for their divorce is that Fawzia’s family, including King Farouk I, viewed the Pahlavis as parvenus[citation needed]. Though the Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt and Sudan, to which Fawzia belonged, had humble beginnings, it had solidified its status in Egypt and the Arab World since 1805. In contrast, the Pahlavis were a far more recent dynasty, owing their position entirely to the coup d’état of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s father, Reza Khan, in 1921.

Many parvenus in the United States arrived there as poor immigrants, then worked their way up the social ladder. Beginning as laborers, they took advantage of better economic opportunities in the U.S., moving on to become civil servants, “white collar” (business/office) workers and finally members of respectable society. Such an example might be John Jacob Astor, whose family once skinned rabbits for a living.[3] With his brother, he went on to build such icons of New York City as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. His grandson moved to England, where he eventually became the first Viscount Astor.

In the 19th century, the French aristocracy viewed Jewish women who converted to Christianity upon marriage as parvenus.[4] Professor Catherine Nicault of the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne has argued that this exemplified the way in which the French aristocracy was hostile toward Jews.[4]

Literature

Vanity Fair‘s Becky Sharp is considered an archetype of the social climber, having flirted her way up the British upper class. The character was not born to affluence or the aristocracy but, on the strength of personal ambition, have climbed the social ladder through opportunism.[5]

Philosophy

  • Friedrich Nietzsche in The Gay Science section 176 on Compassion “les souverains rangent aux parvenus” translated “the sovereign put themselves before the parvenu”.

Film and television

Waking up…

sleeve in bath

There’s a word in the Pali language, anatta (there’s a special character over the last ‘a’ that I don’t know how to make on my keyboard*), which describes a central tenet of Buddhist doctrine.  This tenet is the non-existence of the ego, and can best be understood as the belief that your entire existence as a cohesive self is only an illusion.  In other words, that star trek teleporter discontinuity you mention doesn’t just happen when you go to sleep and wake up, in happens in between every single synaptic action potential you ever experience.  Not only are you not the same person as when you went to bed last night, you’re not even the same person as you were when you started reading this. 

-Will Northup (https://www.quora.com/Am-I-the-same-person-when-I-wake-up-in-the-morning)

Sleep cycles & bicycles

IMG_6004

I have found inspiration of late. A beautiful young soul has spoken to me, whispered in my ear. Inspired me. To use my time more wisely. To make more of my time. To own my time and not to waste it on things that don’t enrich me.

I am loving my work and I am working on love. Loving myself and loving my fellow man and woman. Love is all. It is the force that drives me and the food that nurtures me. That, and shinrin yoku.

IMG_5792

And the dharma. You have given me the inner strength to reach for my goals, the confidence to make concrete career moves, the happiness to celebrate a birthday I wasn’t sure I’d make, and the renewed energy to transform my life. I am essentially debt-free (as I promised myself a year and a half ago when my marriage failed), and I am on the brink of an amazing journey after heartbreak almost destroyed me. A lot of soul-searching and self-immolation followed, but I rise alongside my punk rocker peers like the phoenix out of the cinders of a life I saw turn to ash in front of me.

Love this metta:

May you be peaceful
May you be happy
May you be free of suffering
May you be free of the causes of suffering
May you be free from harm
May you be free from fear
May you be loved.

Working on me. Peace.